Hard as Tuff

Recently, it dawned on me that it has almost been two years since I finished college. Here’s a quick recap of things I’ve done, jobs I’ve had and places I’ve lived:

  • June 2015. Diploma in hand. Bought myself a couple more cams, sights set on Squamish.
  • Ended up spending most of my summer in Washington Pass.
  • Got a job coaching my high school girls’ dive team. (I dove competitively in high school.)
  • Moved back to Bellingham. Started working at the climbing gym.
  • Opportunity popped up for me to work full time, 4-10s and use my degree. Hopped right on that… Until I realized that I wasn’t climbing enough, despite being out every weekend in the Cascades.
  • Climbed lots of rocks and a couple peaks with my partner in-and-out of the alpine: Tim Black.
  • Hello, Smith Rock! Fell in love with sport climbing. Hard.
  • Sent it down south to Mexico with megababe and lady crusher friend Carey. Climbed my first 12a (still pretty hyped on that.)
  • The plan was to return to Oregon, return to Smith and return to cold rocks. But my housing arrangement fell through (long story) and I found myself with a job and a place to live at Crystal Mountain.

And that brings us to the present: January 2017. I guess I still have 5 months until it’s been two years since I graduated college… But my brain isn’t always the best at time.

Today, I was inspired to write because I got to thinking about where I’m at in my career, given that it’s been almost two years. I put in my four years’ time, got my piece of paper that suggests I know how to read good (joking) and now look at me: I’m a part-time ski bum, part-time climbing bum and grappling with what to do with my personal process as time flows all around me.

I haven’t been working for material wealth; I haven’t been building the career that Western Washington University envisioned for me; however, I have been working. Hard.

Instead of doing professional networking, polishing my LinkedIn profile and collecting business casual blazers, I forced myself to move to a new place where I had to make new friends, new climbing partners and admit that I was a weak sport climber in a word-class sport crag. I got rid of most of my nice work clothes (most of my everything else, too.) I swallowed my ego, pushed aside my pride and suffered up a lot of spooky 5.10s.

When I could have easily stayed local (Bellingham) and climbed my way through the grades at Squamish — which I did, to be fair, but still have quite a ways to go — I chose instead to drive to Index, drive to Leavenworth, drive to Washington Pass where I knew that the climbing would be unfamiliar. I knew that the skills I’d collected from my previous experiences would come in handy, but I also knew that continuing my progression was more important than settling into a comfortable rhythm.

That’s also one of the main reasons why I quit my cushy desk job in Bellingham (I only lasted about 6 months.) I could have continued climbing on the weekends and pulling plastic during weekdays, but I knew it wasn’t enough for me. I knew that my climbing wouldn’t improve as rapidly as I wanted it to if I had just stuck around and been patient. That’s not how I operate. So I put in my two weeks, packed my life into my car and drove 7 hours by myself to a climbing area I’d never been to before.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that there are times when I doubt myself. And if this is the first time you’re reading my work, welcome to the mindful madness that is Mallorie. I think a lot, so I write sometimes. I have boundless energy so I climb mountains. I climb mountains because things are much simpler up there. Out there. I belong there.

And that, in a long and roundabout way, brings me to who and where I am today. By no means do I climb the hardest; by no means do I shred the hardest on the ski hill; by no means do I even work the hardest; but by all means, I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am. I don’t waste my time doing what I think I “should” or worrying too much about what lies ahead. Instead, I work hard to carve my own path, to climb the rocks, to reach the peaks, to make meaningful connections and to make my limited time on this planet count.

I have the utmost respect for people who work hard at whatever they do. If your chosen career, hobby or activity brings you joy, passion and purpose, you know you’re on the right track. And while there may be moments of indecision, disjunctive plot twists and bumps along the way, ultimately, I think we’re all here to serve a purpose.

My calling is in the mountains and I fully intend to answer that call.

 

Advertisements

Misplaced Climber Girl

My life took a surprising turn recently.

Earlier this month, I was happily climbing in Mexico but missing home sweet Smith Rock. I was anxiously anticipating getting back to that sweet, sweet techy slab after nabbing my first 12a. The plan was to triumphantly return home — brimming with confidence — and crush it.

And then my housing arrangement in Oregon fell through.

At about the same time, my friend told me about a job at Crystal Mountain ski resort. She’d also found me a place to live nearby.

Conveniently, my whole life was packed in my car and parked in front of my folks’ house in Washington. More than I believe in “signs,” I definitely believe in flow. My flow was taking me to Crystal.

Day one on the mountain: I nearly drooled on myself looking at Rainier from my (now daily) gondola commute. Beneath me, the resort looked enormous. I saw treelines, steep groomers, meandering trails… I was dangling above an enormous playground that I was about to have wide-open access to. (Is this even real life? It can’t be!)

Day two on the mountain: Humbled. Ohhhhhh soooooo humbled. Turns out climbing in Mexico for three weeks isn’t good training for skiing. Instead of reading the map and choosing an easy route to warm up on, I decided to wing it. Just go for it. And then I found myself skiing steep trees and praying to god to have mercy on my tumbling soul. At the end of my first run, my legs were shaking and my feet were aching something fierce. I had done a terrible job fitting my boots and could hardly get myself back to the lift.

Today was different. Today, I wore boots that fit. I wore goggles that both shielded my eyes from falling snow and allowed me to interpret terrain. My clothes were warm. My skis were the proper length and f%cking fun. While I definitely took falls, I took them with a shit-eating-grin on my face. I brushed myself off and then charged down the next hill. I felt out the edges of each of my skis, cutting tight and wide turns in the snow. I found myself a few powder pockets and looked around — amazed that nobody else had beaten me to it — and went for it.

As I got to work today, I noticed that my fingertips are starting to fall apart. The callouses are withering away, but I don’t think I’m going to need them for a while.

Today I discovered that I’m more than just a climber. I’m a goddamn skier, too.

And I’m STOKED.

Love Letter

Dear Smith,
Hey. It’s me. I’m writing you from El Potrero Chico in Mexico. I just wanted to say that I miss you terribly. My new friends here tell me that I shouldn’t, that the climbing is better here — but don’t worry. I know they’re wrong.
Since coming here, I’ve climbed beautiful textured slabs. Pitch-after-pitch of bolted goodness. I’ve kicked cacti (ouch.) I’ve seen colorful lizards mid-route and disturbingly large millipedes. I’ve lead my first 11c, 11d and 12a (and clipped the chains!)
But it’s no Smith.
The views are great, but I miss the Crooked River. The approaches are so short, but I prefer the hike to the Marsupials. The rock has all kinds of features (read: tufas!) and it’s incredibly fun to climb; but it doesn’t kick my ass and inspire me like you do. I’ve attempted harder grades here and had more readily available success; but there’s something to be said of a hard-earned 11b. There’s something to be said of classic-Smith, god-awful runouts to anchor chains… The spooky distance between bolts… And the triumph you feel at the completion of each new route.
It’s been good here in Mexico, but it ain’t no Smith.
See you soon,
Mal

Self Portrait

I could paint, but the colors would be wrong and the strokes splotchy. I could draw, but my hand is clumsy and my focus is imbalanced. I fixate too closely on small details and often lose sight of the broader picture, which isn’t exclusive to my artistic endeavors.

So I write. I trust that I can come up with the right words to depict the world around me and the world within.

Right now, I’m a girl in a corner coffeeshop typing on a Macbook. My hair is tucked into a pair of messy buns. My attire suggests that I’m athletic, maybe even “outdoorsy.” I wear a pair of boots trimmed with cozy faux fir in anticipation for winter temperatures. An unlined notebook is flopped open beside me, filled with my distinctly feminine but sloppy chicken-scratch. Around me, people chit-chat over slightly overpriced bistro-fare lunch; the atmosphere is rustic, classy and casual. Big windows let in plenty of natural light and allow the occasional passerby to look in. A line forms at the counter; it’s comfortably busy.

Within, I feel like a transplant. A Washingtonian in Bend, Oregon. A tourist on an extended vacation without the relaxing connotation. But this is just my life. I’m on a journey and likely to be a tourist for years to come. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a high school boyfriend when I was 17; I remember telling him that I liked traveling because you’re supposed to feel different on the road, supposed to feel like you don’t quite belong. In my day-to-day, I’m constantly a traveler. Continuously slightly removed. Even in the small town where I grew up.

This Washingtonian came to Oregon to climb. I chose to extend my adventure because I fell in love. There’s something about the winding country roads, the expansive grassland between me and now snowcapped mountains, the disjunctive upthrust of cliffs from otherwise flatland that hosts hundreds of climbing routes… No single aspect of Central Oregon has forced me to stay — Smith Rock included, because there’s climbing elsewhere — but the feeling is right. Home for now. Where I’m meant to be.

Buddhism teaches that we all host a little Buddha-nature within. Christianity teaches that you can let Jesus into your heart and that God is everywhere. Personally, I’m more inclined to a Buddhist approach to spirituality, but I think that this teaching resonates regardless of its origin.

In Oregon, I find that I’m often doing things that I love. I’m around people that love to climb, love to adventure and love life. I regularly interact with them in the shop, at the crag or in friendly conversations. It feels as though I’m marinating in this love of life, in my chosen climbing lifestyle, in a life of love. The more I love, the more I have love to give.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m making moves toward enlightenment — as Buddhist teachings might encourage me to do — my path is love and love is my light. Like an onlooker in an art gallery, you can read my writings and feel that light.

Better

I came to Smith with the intention of hanging out through October, peak season, when the desert temperature drops and crimpacity (crimp-capacity) rises dramatically. I was told that there would be work for me and that I’d have my hands full.

As I’ve written in previous posts, I chose to stay because of the community that I’ve found here. But I don’t think I’ve said much beyond gushing about how happy I am to be here. Well, let’s fix that.

In each of my endeavors, whether it’s climbing, writing, taking photos or working toward my dream of becoming a mountain guide, I get support from my community. It happens in little ways, like when people tell me “That’s rad!” in passing. And more direct ways, like my friends belaying and cheering me up a challenging line. Or even more importantly, like when people cite my flaws and tell me that they expect more of me. That I can. I can write better, I can climb better, I can dream bigger, I can do better.

Slowly but surely, I’m working toward 10,000 hours in climbing, photography, writing. But it’s no solo endeavor. I’m better off because of the people around me.

FA & FU

I have a lot of disparate thoughts rolling around in my head right now. However, I can nail down two pretty simply:

1.) I got my first, first ascent.

2.) Fuck Donald Trump.

I cannot ignore the state of my backward country, the state of my disheartened community and the significance of the times. America just collectively decided that Donald Trump — a racist, lying, misogynistic animal of a man — will best represent our domestic and international interests for four years to come. Despite my love for the Pacific Northwest and my modern heritage — the brave, opinionated, conscientious and compassionate people that have nurtured me into the adult I am today — I am ashamed to identify as an American.

However, it does little to complain to Facebook about how fucked up it all is. It’s not enough to apathetically watch from the sidelines. I’m no political activist, but I can certainly evoke some of the change I wish to see in the world. It begins with the small decisions I make each day: am I kind to those around me? Do I participate in building community? Do I take pride in the things that I do? Do I dedicate myself to doing things that benefit others? Yes. As much as I possibly can, I do.

I’ve learned a lot from the climbing community in Smith. Here, I feel supported and encouraged. People want to see me succeed. And it’s contagious, because I feel all of the same sentiment. Together we’re stronger. I believe the same holds true of political affairs.

About a month and a half ago, my friend Alan introduced me to the idea of developing routes in high, obscure corners of the park. Alan, only 24 years old, has dedicated countless hours and a considerable chunk of his own change into developing new climbs, trails and terraces to ensure ease of access.

For most climbers, nabbing a first ascent is appealing. It’s gratifying to know that you were the first person to spot a line, work out the moves and then see it through. It certainly appeals to the ego. But it takes a lot of work: cleaning loose rock with a hammer and crowbar, puzzling out a safe distance between future bolts, drilling the bolt holes, hammering the bolts in and placing the hangers.

For many, just climbing someone else’s established line begets the fix they’re after. But as my friend Chris says, development is a creative endeavor. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s a labor of love. It’s seeing beyond your own climbing and giving back to the broader climbing community.

With Alan’s oversight and willingness to show me the ways, I bolted my first line in the Marsupials. Atop a scree gully, my sweet little line sits high above anything else in the park. The view is spectacular. The climb follows an arete, utilizing negligible features in the rock to a pumpy finish. After completing the first ascent, I named it Your Highness and believe it to be a hard 11a, bordering on 11b.

I am extremely grateful to Alan, Chris and everyone else in the climbing community (local and beyond.) Without the support of numerous people in my life, I wouldn’t be able to experience the rich happiness of accomplishing my first, first ascent.

I hope that people will climb my line and find as much joy as I did in cleaning, projecting and later sending.

In sum, I’d like to acknowledge the tumultuous state and disturbing trends of current events, especially pertaining to the election. But don’t let it distract you from the beauty and possibility of your immediate surroundings. Be good to yourself and to your community. Be kind. Be compassionate. Do well for yourself and for others.

Be excellent to each other and everything will be okay.

F-falling!

Yesterday, I reluctantly pulled myself from my cozy bed and gathered my things to go climbing. The weather was slightly overcast and gauzy clouds draped themselves over the rocks. It seemed like conditions were going to be so-so, but we pushed forward with our plans.

We started on a damp 10- climb that’s spooked me in the past. Given the conditions, I decided not to lead it. Normally, Alan (one of my constant partners at Smith) will pull the rope and laugh at me when I tell him that I’m scared. With him, I’ve consistently onsighted and attempted harder climbs than with any other partner. Each time I climb with Alan, I feel like I get a little stronger. It also helps that he’s a solid 12 climber and projects 13s and 14s.

Fast forward a few climbs and I’m leading a 10c, feet above my last bolt and a small ledge. Fear creeps into my mind and down into my now shaking foot.

I call down to my belayer, “Chris, I think I’m gonna fall.”

Immediately, both of the guys start cheering me on, telling me to stick with it, find my feet, move up, you got this, etc.

But my mind isn’t having any of that positivity nonsense. Instead, I’m fixated on the fact that when I inevitably fall, it’s going to be a long whip given the distance between me and my last bolt. And it happens.

And – surprise – I’m totally fine.

I’m shaking, laughing nervously and finding myself temporarily unable to make eye contact with the guys because I’m embarrassed. I hate falling on lead not for the fear that caused me to fall, but for the way it messes with my headgame.

If lead climbing – especially onsight climbing – is a blank canvas open to your creative interpretation; falling is a disjunctive ink splatter that disrupts the flow.

But it’s not the end of the world. You can incorporate the splatter and then later use your experience to make better art, climb harder, etc. But it still gets to me and the guys knew it.

I start to try to talk my way out of the climb, “I don’t know guys… I just got really scared.” I’m still smiling and laughing, but shaking like a leaf. The adrenaline jolt has woken me up and the part of my brain that handles fear is galvanized. But, being good climbing partners, they tell me that they’re not going to let me down that easy.

I take a moment. Gather my thoughts. And prepare myself to continue up. They’re right, I shouldn’t give up that easy. They also give me good pointers about using my feet, focusing my attention and shifting my weight to better grip the rock. It becomes obvious to me that these guys have been climbing longer and harder than I have; and I’m grateful for it.

Yesterday, I realized the length of the road ahead in my climbing career. I’m going to have to struggle my way up many more climbs, finesse others and fall from time to time. And  you know what? I’m psyched.